Want to permanently warp a child? Let them spend the majority of their formative years aboard an aging wooden fishing boat, with no electricity, and therefore no television, air conditioning or modern refrigeration. Be sure the vessel is well-provisioned with a boat-load of books ranging from navigation guides and diesel engine manuals to comic capers and gritty, hard-boiled mysteries.
There’s no doubt those very conditions are what led me to where I am today. When I wasn’t out fishing, sailing in my dinghy, or mucking around in the nearby salt marshes, you could find me curled up in my bunk, reading. And it’s truly fascinating, the things you can learn from books. I came to appreciate the finer nuances of keeping an engine well-tuned, I plotted courses to the far ends of the earth, and I plotted countless varieties of madness and mayhem. That last part came courtesy of John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee series – after all, Travis lived aboard a boat, something I could easily relate to, and he followed his own moral compass. A child’s mind is like a sponge, and you must be careful what you let them absorb, lest in years to come they wind up writing twisted stories of violence and vengeance.
When Last Exit in New Jersey began to take shape, it was a given that I’d set this dark, offbeat tale on and around the boats in my home waters. True, New Jersey has a somewhat unsavory reputation, and it’s one that the media has happily embraced. But Jersey – the real Jersey – is more than just stops on the Turnpike – it’s a diverse state with mountains, farmland, and 217 miles of coastal shoreline encompassing tidal creeks, estuaries, barrier beaches, and a rich maritime heritage that spans over centuries. My characters, who live along the edge, aren’t your typical Jersey residents – they exist in a world rarely glimpsed from the highway and they approach problems in their own unique ways. But then, what else would you expect from an author with such a warped childhood?
When not writing, Grundler spends far too much time aboard an aging trawler by the name of Annabel Lee. Grundler's next thriller, No Wake Zone picks up where Last Exit in New Jersey ends.